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US seeks extension for Palestinian-Israeli talks

Members of US Secretary of State John Kerry's team have started communicating with the Palestinian and Israeli sides to check on the possibility of extending the ongoing negotiations until the end of the year should Kerry's efforts to get a framework agreement fail.

London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday the news citing senior Western diplomatic sources, and predicted the failure of Kerry's framework deal because it is being refused by both the Palestinian and the Israeli sides.

According to the newspaper, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has objected to most items mentioned in the proposed plan, including withdrawing from lands equal to the area of the West Bank and allowing the establishment of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu also opposed Kerry's suggestion to set up a combined team of Palestinian, Israeli, American and Jordanian security forces along the borders of the Jordan Valley, as well as refused the return of any Palestinians refugees.

The newspaper reported that the Palestinian side has refused to recognise Israel as a Jewish state and to set up their capital in only selected parts of East Jerusalem.

In addition, the Palestinian side also rejected the return of only a limited number of refugees, as well as Netanyahu's proposal to annex 13 per cent of the West Bank in exchange for a land swap of only three to four per cent of Israeli land with payment for the rest.

Instead, the Palestinians are insisting on a state based on the 1967 borders with only a few land swaps and all of East Jerusalem as its capital.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian official told Al-Hayat that Netanyahu has been deceiving Kerry by making ambiguous offers. The official said that when Kerry proposed the framework deal to Netanyahu, the latter strongly objected to it and denied that he had given any offers at all.

The newspaper also reported a Western diplomat saying that the latest meeting between Kerry and Netanyahu lasted for seven hours and members of both teams heard loud screaming coming from the other room.

The newspaper attributed Kerry's postponement of his next visit to the region, initially planned for 13 January, to that fiery meeting. The visit has reportedly been postponed indefinitely.

US President Barack Obama recently said that the chances for reaching a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis are less than 50 per cent.

Asia & AmericasIsraelMiddle EastNewsPalestineUS
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